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New research into the take-up of early education entitlements

Department for Education have released a report explaining the findings of research into the 'Take-up of free early education entitlements (FEEE)'. The research, undertaken by NatCen Social Research and ASK Research in 2018, includes evidence assessment, analysis and interviews. 

The research investigated:

  • Why take-up of FEEE for 3 and 4-year-olds has fallen slightly in recent years.
  • Why take-up of the disadvantaged 2 year-old entitlement is lower in London than elsewhere in England.
  • Factors associated with different patterns of FEEE take-up.
  • Actions taken by local authorities and childcare providers to improve take-up.

Key findings:

  • Region, economic disadvantage, English as an additional language (EAL), ethnicity, population mobility (the proportion of children aged 0 to 4 years who moved into or out of the local authority, measured in 2016) and employment status at an area level were all associated with take-up.
  • Across all areas, children from the most disadvantaged families, who stand to gain most, are least likely to access the funded entitlements.
  • At a local authority (LA) level, higher proportions of children with EAL predicted lower take-up rates of the 2 year old entitlement. For the universal 3 and 4-year-old entitlement, higher proportions of children with EAL, higher population mobility and also higher proportions of children with SEND predicted lower take-up.
  • For providers, 2-year-old places were less financially lucrative due to the higher staffing ratios, the need for more space and the higher needs of the children eligible for the entitlement and their families. Both school-based providers and childminders identified particular barriers to offering 2-year-old places relating to structural factors and practical difficulties.
  • LA leads and providers considered it too early to assess the impact of the 30 hours policy on the 2-year-old and the universal 3 and 4-year-old provision.
  • Parents not taking up the entitlement expressed choices relating to their preferences and understanding of their children’s needs as well as perceived constraints and practical barriers. Some parents would be more likely to take up the funded entitlements if they understood better the benefits of early education, while others would respond to greater flexibility to match their needs.
  • Some specific actions may improve take-up, relating to funding, support for schools and childminders, communication and practical support for parents. The analysis suggests that support for parents of children with EAL or SEND, and those who are new to an area, could help to address barriers to take-up.
  • While there is scope to improve take-up, the evidence suggests that some parents will continue choosing to begin formal early education when their child is older, meaning that there may be a limit to the take-up rates achieved.

Read the full report.